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Holy Cross battles to the end to win All “A” Classic girls basketball state championship game

Holy Cross girls basketball players with Kentucky All “A” Classic state championship trophy. (Photo by Ted Jackson)

By Terry Boehmker

NKyTribune sports reporter

RICHMOND — As his players posed for photos with the Kentucky All “A” Classic state championship trophy, Holy Cross girls basketball coach Ted Arlinghaus was holding back tears following his team’s 65-61 win over Bardstown Bethlehem in the title game on Sunday at Eastern Kentucky University.

“Twenty-four years ago on this day, my mom passed away when I was playing in this tournament,” Arlinghaus told reporters with a wavering voice. “And then now, to be able to come back here and have some better memories, it’s nothing short of phenomenal. I love it.”

Holy Cross forward Julia Hunt puts up a one-handed shot in the paint during the All “A” Classic state championship game.(Photo by Ted Jackson)

After winning their first three state tournament games by double-digit margins, the Indians had to battle to the end against Bardstown to give their coach the cherished victory.

With nine seconds left, a 3-point goal by Bardstown guard Carlie Thurmond made it 63-61. Arlinghaus called a timeout to settle his players down and make sure they knew what to do on the ensuing inbounds play under their own basket.

The ball was lobbed to long-armed 6-foot-2 junior Julia Hunt and she was fouled with six seconds left. Hunt calmly made two free throws to give her team a four-point lead and Bardstown missed an uncontested 3-point shot as the final horn sounded.

Hunt finished with 21 points, 19 rebounds and eight blocked shots so no one was surprised to see her named most valuable player on the state all-tournament team.

“The way she dictates the terms of the game is unbelievable,” Arlinghaus said. “She gets double-doubles constantly and to flirt with a triple-double with blocked shots is just awesome.”

Holy Cross senior forward Nejai Lewis also posted a double-double in the championship game with a season-high 20 points and 11 rebounds. Lewis and Hunt both scored eight points in the fourth quarter without either of them missing a field goal or free throw attempt.

Nejai Lewis

“It’s because of Julia we can work a little high-low action so we’re freeing each other up,” said Lewis, a transfer student playing her first season with the Indians.

Lewis scored her team’s last four points in the first half that ended with Holy Cross holding a slim 25-22 lead. The Indians opened the third quarter with a 10-2 run that extended the margin to 35-24. They were ahead, 44-34, going into the fourth quarter.

Holy Cross took its biggest lead of the game, 50-37, on a jumper by Lewis with 6:33 remaining, but Bardstown wouldn’t quit. The Banshees went on a 24-13 run to make it a two-point game, 63-61, when Hunt stepped to the free throw line with six seconds left.

“They’ve got a ton of heart and a ton of grit,” Arlinghaus said of his players. “I think we had an 11 or 12-point lead with four or five minutes to go, but Bethlehem is just too good of a ball club. We knew they were going to make their run and I just love the way we responded at the end.”

Holy Cross guard Miyah Wimzie makes a jump pass to avoid being trapped by Bardstown players. (Photo by Ted Jackson)

Bardstown missed 13 field goal attempts in the fourth quarter and ended up shooting 25.4 percent (16 of 63) for the game. The Banshees did make 11 of 14 free throws in the final period and had a 23-17 scoring advantage at the line.

Holy Cross shot 43.4 percent (23 of 53) from the field. The Indians ended up outscoring Bardstown, 42-18, in the paint and won the battle of the boards, 44-37, thanks primarily to Lewis and Hunt.

“Ted had a great idea,” Hunt said.  “When they were down by four or five or whatever it was, he was like, ‘Everybody just stay in the paint and then we can get up and stay up.'”

Lewis was named to the state all-tournament team along with Holy Cross senior forward Sarah Bottom and senior point guard Aleah Arlinghaus, the head coach’s niece.

Everyone on the Holy Cross team was happy to get the victory for their coach after he told them about his mom passing away 24 years ago when he was playing in the tournament.

“He just brought it up in the locker room,” Hunt said. “It was sad, but he loves us and we love him, so we’re always there for him.”

This is the second time that Holy Cross has won the All “A” Classic girls state basketball tournament. The first one came in 2015 and that team went on to win the “Sweet 16” post-season state tournament as well.

Holy Cross coach Ted Arlinghaus gets his turn to pose with the state championship trophy. (Photo by Ted Jackson)

HOLY CROSS  17  8  19  21 — 65
BETHLEHEM   14  8  12  27 — 61

HOLY CROSS (21-5): Hunt 6 9 21, Lewis 9 2 20, Hayes 2 3 7, Wimzie 1 3 5, Nelson 1 0 3, Bottom 1 0 3, Williams 3 0 6. Totals: 23 17 65.

BETHLEHEM (17-7): T. Miles 2 5 10, A. Miles 1 3 5, Clayton 0 1 1, Thurmond 6 10 25, Filistreau 7 4 20. Totals: 16 23 61.

Three-point goals: HC — Nelson, Bottom. B — Thurmond 3, Filistreau 2, Miles.

2023 —
Holy Cross (coach Ted Arlinghaus)
2015 —
Holy Cross (coach Kes Murphy)
2012 — Walton-Verona (coach Mark Clinkenbeard)
2010 — Newport Central Catholic (coach Ron Dawn)
1999 — Bishop Brossart (coach Ray Kues)


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